I know lots of people who find traveling to be incredibly stressful. I have heard reasons ranging from the fear of getting lost, to feeling unsafe in foreign countries, to the burden of hauling your necessities from place to place.
While I would love to touch upon the first two reasons in time, the easiest concern to solve in the last. When it comes to traveling, nothing is more frustrating to me than hauling around extra things I don’t end up needing. Over time I have taught myself to minimize my packing and I now travel with only a backpack or carry on.
Not my most streamlined packing job, due to almost missing our train, but still making it work!
When I am packing for any trip, I ask myself several questions:
- How many times WILL I use it?
- How many times CAN I use it?
- Can I get it there if I end up needing it?
- Is this something I can leave/trash at my destination?
- Can I multipurpose it?
How Many Times WILL I Use It?
Let me give you a perfect example… heels. Ladies, how many times have you packed heels for a trip “just in case we go to a nice dinner?” If you are anything like me, you never wear those heels that you wasted so much space on.
I try to take this mindset in all items I pack and the key is being fully honest with yourself. Don’t pack for the version of yourself that you imagine to be on your trip. Pack for the version of yourself that you are at home. If you never wear heels at home, you will never wear heels on your trip. If you never do a full face of makeup at home, you won’t do it on your trip.
So be transparent with yourself and don’t try to tell yourself that you need items “just in case.” Know yourself and know what you like and need.
How Many Times CAN I Use It?
Guess what? You don’t need 14 outfits for a 7 day trip. It’s true! Chances are, you will end up wearing your favorite items multiple times. During our last trip to Europe, I wore the same comfortable, versatile dress for at least half the trip. Traveling is a strong case for quality over quantity. It is far better to have 4 killer outfits that you are excited to wear multiple times than 12 outfits of varying quality and comfort.
Many AirBnbs have washing machines and all have, at the very least, sinks. Resigning yourself to repeating outfits doesn’t have to be a filthy affair!
Same dress and rocking it!
Can I Get It There?
There are some items that are irreplaceable if lost. I’m making a strong case for packing an extra pair of contacts here. But the majority of items, especially toiletries, exist at your destination. Rather than bog down your bag with dozens of heavy items that you don’t anticipate needing, set aside a few dollars in your budget to purchase anything you may have forgotten or left behind.
I am the world’s biggest advocate for budget traveling, but I am also an advocate for a light bag, even if it ends up setting me back a few dollars.
Does It Have To Come Home?
I have a collection of my least favorite socks, underwear, and right at the edge of death shoes that I save just for travel. Chances are you are going to come home with more items than you left with, so if you can throw away items that would have be relegated to the garbage at home, you are preparing for the inevitable.
When I went to the Galapagos, I packed a pair of running/hiking shoes that I had since replaced at home. They were right at the edge of life, but I knew that we wouldn’t be doing any activities on the trip that were so strenuous that I would need fresh running shoes.When the trip came to an end, rather than lug back a paid of filthy, beat up shoes, I trashed them and filled the space with an amazing Ecuadorian tapestry instead!
Adios old shoes, hola tapestry!
Can I Multipurpose It?
I believe that the #1 thing people overpack is shoes. I have seen so many people leave for vacation with a pair of walking shoes, a pair of hiking shoes, a pair of dress shoes, a pair of sandals, a pair of fashion shoes… the list goes on. Rather than pack five pairs of shoes, instead invest in a fashionable and functional pair of sneakers beforehand than can transition from day to night and take you from the street to the trails. Personally, I love Nike for this purpose. Their shoes are generally comfortable for walking and walk the line between fashion and function perfectly.
I also utilize the same strategy with clothing. I am a huge fan of packing dresses or a skirt with a few matching tops, which take up less space and can easily transition from day to night.